Q&A: Store designs and more may be registered as trademarks

Crowe attorney Margaret Millikin discusses Apple's recent registration of its store design as a trademark.
by Paula Burkes Published: February 14, 2013
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Q&A with Margaret Millikin

Apple seeks to protect property with trademark of store design

Q: Why did Apple register its store design as a trademark?

A: Apple understands intellectual property (IP) is a valuable asset and acts strategically to protect the IP that it owns or controls. Trademarks, as an asset class of IP, identify one's goods and services and distinguish them from the goods and services of others. Almost anything can serve as a trademark, even smells, sounds and colors. The color red is registered for Christian Louboutin shoe soles. The Pillsbury doughboy giggle is a federally registered trademark. Even the scent of plumeria blossoms for embroidery thread has been registered as a trademark.

The design of a building can serve as a distinctive trademark or “trade dress.” This is nothing new. Many will remember the recognizable design of the rectangular Fotomat buildings with tiered, trapezoidal rooflines. Fotomat registered its distinctive building design as a service mark more than 40 years ago (No. 911388). Microsoft registered its retail store design (No. 4036534) in 2011. Apple believes that its store design is distinctive and sought protection for it. The U.S. Trademark Office agreed and registered the store design last month for Apple's retail store services.

Q: What elements are included in the registration?

A: The registration is a picture of the Apple retail store design and layout. It describes in detail the glass paneled facade, the modern recessed lighting regime, the tiered and stacked shelving arrangements and the display table configuration. (See Reg. No. 4277914).

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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